Football: Beardsley looks in vain for game

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The Independent Online
SATURDAYS off are becoming all too common for the 37-year-old Peter Beardsley, who seems unable to get a game despite his experience and pedigree. Having seen his move from Newcastle to Bolton run into a dead end, he now finds himself surplus to requirements at Manchester City, who declined the chance to extend his spell on loan.

And he has only to pop his head around another club's door to spark a round of speculation that he might be about to join them.

Last week, he set the rumour mill rolling by turning up to watch Carlisle, his first professional club, who are looking for a manager or coach to allow Michael Knighton to concentrate on being chairman. In fact, the Cumbrian club insisted, Beardsley was merely on a social visit - his wife is a former club employee and his in-laws live locally.

On Saturday, he turned up at York City's match with Fulham, setting off whispers that he is poised to link up again with Kevin Keegan as the cash- rich London club pushes for a Second Division play-off spot.

But if he was at Bootham Crescent at Fulham's invitation, it was without the knowledge of their team manager, Ray Wilkins, who confessed to being unaware of his presence when quizzed after the match.

"He is certainly not here as my guest, although I cannot speak for Kevin," Wilkins said. "Is he coming here? I wouldn't have thought so."

Beardsley, whom Keegan used to call football's Peter Pan, is only too keen to continue playing but looks to have found himself caught in a wages trap, having left St James' Park on a salary beyond the scope of lower division clubs, even Fulham.

Cash-strapped Manchester City, now under orders to cut costs, could not even consider paying the pounds 10,000-a-week to which he is accustomed, hence his departure.

FAMILY

TREE

When Tore Andre Flo was growing up in Norway, his ambition was to play in England, and he would have been happy to emulate his older brother, Jostein, who was a success at Sheffield United.

Jostein was one of the gems unearthed by Dave Bassett at Bramall Lane. Bought for pounds 400,000 from Sogndal in 1993, the 6ft 4in striker enjoyed a good first season with United but struggled to regain his form after the 1994 World Cup finals, when he was used in midfield. A dispute over the last instalment of his transfer fee led to his contract at United being cancelled in 1996.

It soon became evident that the younger Flo - at 23 he is 10 years' Jostein's junior - might go further and after he had scored 18 goals in 25 matches for Tromso he moved within Norway to SK Brann Bergen, but was on the point of realising his dream last March when Everton were poised to pay pounds 2.6m.

The collapse of that deal precipitated the departure of Joe Royle and Tore was resigned to going elsewhere until Ruud Gullit seized the chance to buy the striker for pounds 300,000 last summer when his Brann contract expired.

Meanwhile, Jostein's career has picked up again. In two seasons back in Norway with Stromgodset, he has scored 27 goals. He and his brother may meet on the field next season, with Stromgodset finishing third in the Norwegian Premier Division, winning them a place in the 1998-99 Uefa Cup.

Johnson's blunder gives Birmingham the blues

DO NOT expect the defender Michael Johnson to be showing his face among Birmingham City fans during the next few days. If he does venture out, he would be well advised to do so in disguise.

Johnson's "professional" foul allowed Nottingham Forest back into the game at St Andrew's on Saturday, when the First Division leaders stole a 2-1 win - after which the 24-year-old centre- back rather wished he could have edited the text of a profile of him that appeared in the match- day programme.

Born in Nottingham, Johnson is a self-confessed Forest fan, as keen to see his favourite club return to the Premiership as to help Birmingham reach the play-offs and go with them.

Indeed, he had warned assistant manager Mick Mills of his divided loyalties before the game... in jest, of course.

"I told him: 'You'd better not pick me because if it is 0-0 and Forest need three points I might be in danger of putting it through my own net'," he explained to the programme editor, who duly included this confession in his feature.

In the event, Johnson did not score an own goal - but his foul from behind on Pierre van Hooijdonk with six minutes left and Birmingham 1-0 ahead turned out to be just as effective.

Johnson was sent off, free-kick specialist Van Hooijdonk bent the ball past goalkeeper Ian Bennett from inside the "D" and went on to rifle home the winner two minutes from the end.

All of which left Birmingham outside the play-off zone, manager Trevor Francis livid and poor Johnson presumably looking for a blanket to wear over his head and some means of escaping St Andrew's through a side door.

GOOD BOYS . . .

THE FIRST DIVISION'S

LEADING SCORERS

Pierre van Hooijdonk 31

(Nottm Forest)

Kevin Phillips 26

(Sunderland)

David Johnson 26

(Ipswich)

Brett Angell 21

(Stockport)

Clive Mendonca 19

(Charlton)

. . . and BAD BOYS

THE FIRST DIVISION'S

MOST CARDED PLAYERS

Jon Dyson

(Huddersfield)

Stuart Talbot

(Port Vale)

Jason Cundy

(Ipswich)

Steve Jenkins

(Huddersfield)

Nigel Pepper

(Bradford City)

Missing...

Eddie McGoldrick

(Manchester City)

The Irish international midfielder, a pounds 1m buy for Arsenal from Crystal Palace in 1993, looked a bargain acquisition when City recruited him in September 1996 for just pounds 300,000. Indeed, he soon became an important organiser on the field, where his presence was particularly beneficial to City's younger players, and he was regarded as one of the key reasons for the side avoiding the drop. This season, however, has been less successful. Transfer-listed as part of the club's cost-cutting drive, he last played under Frank Clark in November and seems unlikely to be part of Joe Royle's plans even though, at 32, he still has some miles on the clock. Perhaps he is cursed by being Steve Coppell's only signing.

Andy Parkinson

(Tranmere)

Having played in the Liverpool side that won the FA Youth Cup two years ago, 18-year-old Andy might by now have been making a name for himself at Anfield had it not been for the progress of one Michael Owen. The two are similar in many ways - fast, nimble, sharp in the box - but Liverpool felt they could accommodate only one. Given a fresh chance by Tranmere, however, Andy has impressed manager John Aldridge with some useful performances, especially when he scored the winner against Sunderland in the FA Cup fourth round.

The fashion for follicly-challenged coaches currently sweeping London was bound to lead to confusion, which may explain why some observers are wondering if Fulham's Ray Wilkins and Tottenham's Christian Gross are really one and the same person.

Rumours

Fact and ction from the Sunday papers

THE Mirror's story linking Ruud Gullit with Tottenham is scotched rumours by the People. They say Gullit's agent, Jon Smith, has been in touch with Alan Sugar but was told by Spurs "we're happy with the current arrangements". And in contrast to the Mirror's assertion that Gullit has told "close friends" he will be back next season with a London club, the News of the World quotes Gullit's father as saying his son will never coach in England again after his sacking by Chelsea. The Express, meanwhile, reports that Real Madrid are stepping up their efforts to lure the Dutchman to Spain.

The Mail believes Alan Shearer will put his own career first if Newcastle are relegated from the Premiership, saying he is "ruthlessly ambitious and not prepared to slip into a First Division backwater." Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester United would lead the race for his signature.

Gareth Southgate, who has hinted he will quit Aston Villa if they fail to convince him of their ambition, is named by the News of the World as a pounds 6m target for Atletico Madrid, who are looking to clinch a deal this week.

The News of the World believes Blackburn will not drop their pursuit of Coventry's Dion Dublin, having offered pounds 5m for the versatile striker. The People reckons Arsenal want to tempt Coventry to part with both Dublin and Darren Huckerby.

Savo Milosevic is the target for another Italian club, according to the People, who say Udinese want to pay pounds 3m for the Aston Villa striker.

Leicester could sell goalkeeper Kasey Keller to Middlesbrough, Sunderland or Chelsea before Thursday's transfer deadline, claims the News of the World.

The Mirror, People and News of the World name Villa midfielder Ian Taylor as a pounds 1.5m target for Leeds.

Chelsea are poised to sign French defender Franck Silvestre from Auxerre, says the People.

The First XI

Eleven internationals in First Division action on Saturday

Alan Kelly (Sheffield Utd, Eire)

Colin Cooper (Nottm Forest, Eng)

Keith Curle (Wolves, Eng)

Alan McDonald (Swindon, NI)

Scott Gemmill (Nottm Forest, Scot)

John Aloisi (Portsmouth, Aus)

Kyle Lightbourne (Stoke, Bermuda)

Niall Quinn (Sunderland, Eire)

Pierre van Hooijdonk (Ntm F, Neth)

Steve Stone (Nottm Forest, Eng)

Ian Rush (Sheffield Utd, Wales)

NATIONWIDE TEAM OF THE WEEK

DAVE BEASANT

Nottingham Forest

DAMON SEARLE

Nottingham Forest

STEVE BRUCE

Birmingham

TONY MOWBRAY

Ipswich Town

MICHAEL GRAY

Sunderland

KENNY IRONS

Tranmere

MARK KINSELLA

Charlton

BOBBY PETTA

Ipswich

IAN BOGIE

Port Vale

PIERRE VAN HOOIJDONK

Nottingham Forest

DEAN CROWE

Stoke City

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